The ongoing and rapidly spreading SARS-CoV-2 outbreak continues to present formidable challenges to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), its component agencies, and its international partners as we work together to protect the health and safety of our citizens around the world.
Here at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), we are increasing our efforts to network, share best practices and collaborate on research and development (R&D) with our international partners across the globe. During this time of uncertainty, we remember that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic affects us all. We are all in this together, and together, we can control the spread and flatten the curve.
At the start of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, S&T immediately began coordinating with technical subject matter experts in the United Kingdom (UK), Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Shortly after the U.S. declared a national emergency due to the spreading pandemic, we began convening our Five Research and Development (5RD) colleagues on a weekly basis to collectively address common threats, capability gaps, technology needs and R&D breakthroughs. Through this framework, public safety and security technical experts continue to discuss:
- Ways to identify complementary R&D efforts and studies related to decontamination of personal protective equipment, surface stability, aerosol stabilities, and animal susceptibility;
- Sharing of emerging test results and assessments amongst agencies; and
- Validating and verifying initial results, protocols, assessments, and tests with the international technical community.
S&T’s 5RD SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 activity also incorporates technical expertise from the Biosafety Level 4 Zoonotic Laboratory Network (BSL4ZNet), a global alliance of high-containment laboratories in the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany. Aimed at strengthening international coordination, improving knowledge sharing and expanding capacity, the BSL4ZNet contributes insight into assessments underway at various organizations and further expands the coordination of current global SARS-CoV-2 research activities that are being conducted to address and understand the ongoing pandemic.
We are establishing a process with our partners in the UK to share biological samples and related information, and are also working with other 5RD partners to do the same.
By sharing these critical test methods, biological materials, information, and ultimately the results of research using similar materials and methods, S&T and its international partners are able to:
- Align research activities;
- Directly compare the results of independent research efforts;
- Compile and share a larger set of collective data;
- Develop a better understanding of high-risk biological agents; and
- Strategize for continuing research efforts that leverage strengths and reduces duplicity.
During these unprecedented times, S&T and 5RD are providing excellent examples of the enduring international collaboration and partnerships, bilaterally and multilaterally, and how these partnerships are being leveraged as we work to address this evolving pandemic. 5RD’s ongoing work has been recognized for its positive impacts on informing both current and future research and responses to the outbreak, and its findings are being used to inform DHS, federal government, and international leadership.
As the U.S. and the rest of the world develop implementation and reconstitution plans to open our respective countries to travel and trade, S&T will continue working with our trusted partners to understand how SARS-CoV-2 behaves in complex environments and also share best practices and strategies to mitigate its spread. As the pandemic continues to evolve, it has become clear that sharing information and data has never been more important than now. This is truly a global fight.
As more information on our ongoing international partnerships becomes available, S&T will share it through the 5RD.
In the meantime, the overall DHS S&T response to SARS-CoV-2 is available at http://www.dhs.gov/coronavirus. You can also learn more about S&T’s additional response efforts, including the Master Question List and resources for first responders, by visiting our website. DHS and S&T will be continuously updating content to keep you informed. For a deeper dive into how our partner agencies are responding to the pandemic, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USA.gov websites.